On a placid, still night, we see Brooke awaken to the chime of the security camera, and we feel it pluck a chord in her, like a seventh note, F minor, flush and boozy, and we see her move to silence it. She’s only a little concerned about waking Jackson, his sleep like a prelude to death. It always amazes her how he can shut it down and let it all go like an exhausted toddler. Still, she doesn’t want to take a chance he’ll wake. She’s come to live for these moments, and there’s only a whisper in her head asking her what she thinks she’s doing.
We know it’s Thursday, 12:45 a.m. on the dot. How prompt cheaters are, Brooke had thought to herself when this all started. Yet as the weeks wore on, she came to realize that synchronicity was critical to their enterprise, all of them.
There was a golden hour, she supposed, when Colin’s wife and kids were in a state somewhat like Jackson’s, such an oblivion that Colin could somehow slip away when no one would notice. Maybe leaving the garage door open so he could back his Tesla out quietly and trust, or risk, that on Thursday, his tools, the lawnmower, the kids bikes and beach chairs, even his own treasured longboard, would be safe to allow for his get-away.
Lilly, too, must have determined the precise deep of night when she could ease out of bed, slip into her coral tennies, silence her own camera, and head out without waking poor oblivious Will and the boys.
We watch Brooke throw on her robe and slippers and make her way to the room at the front of her house that sits on a hill with its picture window and sweeping view of practically the whole neighborhood. We see how the pale hue of the street lamp lights the sidewalk and the asphalt, lights all the way to the barricade where the road ends in front of the widow Betty's house next door. Where there is no reason for anyone to be there at 12:45 in the morning.
And that was how it began. That first night when the chimes went off at a time when
Betty and her fluffball Scooter were, of course, in for the night, and Brooke saw on her app the video of the black Tesla pulling up to the barricade. Then, instead of turning around as most cars did, the car stopped and the headlights darkened. Heart pumping, Brooke left her bed and went to the window. The darkened car was still at the barricade, and, in the direction of the car, someone was running. God, maybe this person’s in trouble, maybe Brooke should wake Jackson, call someone, she thought, that first night. There was that button on the app that would bring the police. But something kept her from hitting it. Brooke watched the figure reach the focused beam of the streetlight and gasped. Lilly? Lilly. Lilly in her lavender robe and coral tennies. Lilly breathless as she arrived at the Tesla and opened the door to the back seat. And in a display of seamless sameness that would become a reliable tender for them all, the driver’s door opened at that exact moment and a man stepped out. I know him, Brook thought. Colin opened the driver’s side back door and climbed in. The car dark, Brooke fell back in her chair near the window, the fact of Lilly and Colin sinking in. Colin, whose son played JV baseball with her Drew. Lilly who’d lived five doors down for ten years, and who every Friday morning met her under that same street light to begin their walk. Lilly who never gave a hint that things were off with Will.
Sitting there she thought she should go to bed. But she kept looking at the darkened car, picturing Lilly and Colin making out, slow and improvisational, like that was the point. But it wasn’t, we all knew, and Brooke now imagines them urgent, desperate even, hands groping, legs akimbo. And Brooke, well Brooke was melting, runny and warm to the touch. She remembered one day talking about sex with Lilly, telling her how she should be having more, how Jackson clearly wanted more. The guy deserved it. He was so good, kind, and still so attractive. Yet, many nights all Brooke desired was to be left alone, without one person wanting or needing a thing from her. Lilly said jokingly, “Come on, Brooke, it’s only five minutes out of your life.” They both laughed hard and loud.
Brooke looked at her phone and noticed that more than 30 minutes had passed and the car was still dark.
The Friday morning after that first night Lilly was outside waiting for Brooke under the street lamp at 8:30 on the dot. Brooke never mentioned what she saw and Lilly was Lilly as always, and they’ve continued that way, same as ever.
Yet on Friday nights, Brooke is no longer Brooke. At ll:30 p.m. we see her hand as it slides over the rise of Jackson’s chest, and we see Jackson grab her, letting out a sleepy satisfied moan, as he pulls her toward him.
Now we see Brooke drawn every week to these early hours of Thursday and the dead end of her street. This night we see Lilly exit the car as Brooke watches. As Lilly strolls home, hips swaying, arms swinging in the furl of her robe, we see her stop under the streetlight and look into Brooke’s window. She can’t see me, Brooke thinks. Yet we see Lilly standing there as if she’s waiting for Brooke, just like on Friday mornings, and we all know she does.